White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Monday that President Donald Trump is considering revoking security clearances for several former high-ranking Obama administration officials.
Speaking to reporters during a press briefing, Sanders said that Trump feels that the individuals – former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former CIA & National Security Director Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe – should lose their clearances over their continued criticism of the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sarah Sanders: "Not only is the president looking to take away Brennan's security clearance, he's also looking into the security clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe…because they've politicized and in some cases monetized their public service" pic.twitter.com/Gt3cZipbtc
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 23, 2018
“The president is looking into the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances,” Sanders said.
Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe, Sanders added, have made “baseless accusations of improper contact with or Russia.”
This explanation echoes Senator Rand Paul’s tweets from earlier in the day:
Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump ?
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
Public officials should not use their security clearances to leverage speaking fees or network talking head fees
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
Twitter wasted no time slamming Sanders for the ultimate hypocrisy of the Trump administration accusing others of monetizing public service.
Sarah Sanders: "The Trump critics are monetizing their public service positions".
Trump never divested himself of his businesses and is literally profiting off of his presidency.
— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) July 23, 2018
Monetizing public service was the whole point of Trump running for president.
— Boom Boom (@Josh1938) July 23, 2018
"monetized their public service"… Trump Adm has set the standard for this, No?
— Joseph Castro (@Joseph_ZestLife) July 23, 2018
If the criteria for removing security clearances is the politicization and/or monetization of those clearances, shouldn't Jared and Ivanka be added to that list as well?
— Stellae Incognita (@Michael84546622) July 23, 2018
Because when it comes to "politicized and in some cases actually monetized their public service and their security clearances”, that is what Trump and his family are there for. pic.twitter.com/vm4zDhSWtF
— Lee Ann Lewman (@LALewman) July 23, 2018
Does that mean he's going to revoke his own security clearance for monetizing and politicizing his public service?
— forestgreencoyote (@ElephantCoyote) July 23, 2018
When, in this administration, did monetizing your public office become frowned upon?
— Tony (@PedroMapache63) July 23, 2018
Others felt there was something else disturbing about this tactic.
He’s politicized and apparently has an “enemies list.”
He’s acting like a dictator.
— Bernie's Teachers (@BerniesTeachers) July 23, 2018
Revoking security clearances of presidential critics is another step towards autocracy. The president does not issue security clearances therefore this attempt to revoke is a clear abuse of power. However, anyone found to meet with foreign agents of hostile countries …
— 🧬 🇺🇸 Erci Tall 🏳️🌈 (@ercitall) July 23, 2018
The beginning of a fascist government right before our eyes.
— Batman save us (@linda_danesi) July 23, 2018
Boy, he sure learn something from Putin!!! First step to stop his critics!!
— Kasia Nid🇨🇦🇵🇱 (@KasiaNiddery) July 23, 2018
The administration is admittedly contemplating punishing free speech.
DICTATORSHIP DiCTATORSHIP DICTATORSHIP DICTATORSHIP. How low can he get? You criticize him and he punishes you for your freedom of speech.
— Eva C (@monkeyeva51) July 23, 2018
Sanders also accused the individuals of “being influenced against the president by Russia,” which Sanders described as “extremely inappropriate,” and “the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
Sanders’ remarks are the latest indication of the growing discord between Trump and American intelligence operatives, whom Trump regularly thrashes for saying things that paint him in a negative light.
This is glaringly apparent in Trump’s continued flip-flopping on whether he trusts the conclusions made by the intelligence community that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election in an effort to get him elected.
This move would not constitute the first time an American president has attempted to silence his critics, however.
In 1798, President John Adams signed The Alien and Sedition Act into law, making it a crime to publicly speak negatively about the country’s chief executive. The main purpose of the law was to expand the ability of the federal government to deport foreigners and to make it harder for immigrants to earn the right to vote.
Adams’ Federalist party saw foreigners as a threat to national security, and as one lawmaker at the time put it, the United States should not “invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity.”
The New Age Alien and Sedition Act 2.0 Revoking the Security Clearance of Political Critics who have the experienced knowledge who's opinion would be listened too.
— Matthew C Maida (@Danefalco) July 23, 2018
The Alien and Sedition Act also made it illegal to “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the federal government. This resulted in more than 20 Republican newspaper editors ending up in prison for their critiques of Adams’ administration.
Peter, this is not without precidence. In July 1798, then President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Act. This series of laws, targeted immigrants, made it illegal to speak out against the government, in fact 14 journalists were arrested. We must remove this cancer.
— Todd (@toddwstone) July 19, 2018
Many historians believe that Adams’s motivation for signing the act into law was his rivalry with Vice President Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican who favored states’ rights over a powerful centralized government.
You want a conspiracy theory?
Look at the Alien and Sedition (denaturalization) Act of 1798 and tell me that isn’t Trump’s immigration policy then read the Federalists’ Papers – they wrote that law, and read their forefather’s work in the Articles of the Confederacy.
— chipwattsinterpreter (@chipwattsinterp) July 21, 2018
Public outrage over the law helped propel Jefferson to the presidency in 1800 in what is considered to be one of the ugliest presidential campaigns in American history.